All’s fair; Love headed west to UCLA

Reached Monday, Tabi Love didn’t say specifically why she is leaving Minnesota.

by Nicolas Hallett

Tabitha Love is a 6-foot-6-inch volleyball coachâÄôs dream.  The sophomore was North AmericaâÄôs top womenâÄôs volleyball recruit in 2009 and was persuaded to leave her home of Manitoba, Canada to join the Gophers.  It seemed like a lovely combination.  Something has changed, however, and Love is leaving.

Love confirmed Monday that she will enroll next fall at UCLA.

âÄúMy transfer has nothing to do with thinking they are a better team,âÄù Love said. âÄúUCLA is where I am going to try again.  ItâÄôs where I am going to give myself a second chance.âÄù

Exactly her reason for leaving and what she meant by âÄúsecond chance,âÄù Love wouldnâÄôt say.  She continued to reiterate that the move was âÄúbest for both sides.âÄù MinnesotaâÄôs interim head coach, Laura Bush, could not be reached Monday for comment.

âÄúI had a great time at Minnesota and I had no intention of going to any other school,âÄù Love said.  âÄúBut, after [the season] I had to step away and figure some things out for myself.  Whether IâÄôd stay in the [United] States, go back to Canada or not play at all.âÄù

Regardless of the reason, Love expressed gratitude toward the program she is departing.

âÄú[Minnesota] gave me a lot and I wish them all the best,âÄù said Love. âÄúItâÄôs sad to walk away from such a great program and team.  I will miss it.âÄù

LoveâÄôs exit is especially frustrating for Minnesota considering the impending graduation of 3-time team MVP and 2010 All-Big Ten first team selection, Lauren Gibbemeyer. Love, meanwhile, was second on the team in kills last season.

Still, the future of Minnesota volleyball remains bright.  Other than Gibbemeyer and Love, Minnesota returns the entirety of a roster that finished last season ranked No. 9 in the country.

Though head coach Mike Hebert retired in December after 14 seasons, which included 13 NCAA tournament and three Final Four appearances, Hugh McCutcheon, the current U.S. womenâÄôs national volleyball head coach, was hired in February to replace him. McCutcheon will start his tenure as Minnesota head coach after the 2012 Olympics; until then, Laura Bush will serve as the interim head coach. 

Bush has been to the womenâÄôs volleyball Final Four with three different Big Ten programs, twice as a player with Illinois in 1987 and âÄô88, as an assistant with Michigan State in 1995, and in 2009 with Minnesota.  She has Division I head coaching experience as well, with Marquette from 1999-2001 and Auburn from 2002-07. Most recently, however, Bush was an assistant coach under Hebert.

Hebert, a former U.S. womenâÄôs national coach himself, took the Gophers to the national championship match in 2004 and won the Big Ten title in 2002.  Hebert finished with a 381-125 record at Minnesota and 868 career wins, which, as of 2010, was good for fourth all-time among NCAA Division I womenâÄôs volleyball active head coaches.